Use Focused Training Groups to Engage Associates

You’ve probably heard these common complaints about training from your mid-tier and top-tier associates:

  1. “You offer training only to new hires and neglect those of us who are more experienced.”
  2. “You offer the same training to all associates at every level of the career.”
  3. “You force training on us that we can’t relate to and don’t find valuable.”

LIMRA reports that, according to exit interviews, one of the leading reasons agents and advisors switch firms or companies is that they want the opportunity to grow their practices through education and support.

The key is to strike a balance. You need to make continuing education, training, and development available and attractive while packaging it in a way that doesn’t make experienced associates feel like it’s forced on them.

Focused Training Groups Are an Ideal Solution

Focused training groups are quite effective in solving these training dilemmas. They help you design training for specific groups of advisors, which aids retention. When you offer focus-group training that’s tailored to each group’s specific needs, all your associates will feel like you appreciate them and their unique challenges and needs.

Agents and advisors are typically extremely engaged in focus groups because attendance is voluntary.

How to Structure Focus-Group Meetings

Some associates meet for half a day or an entire day and cover one very specific topic in-depth — for example, business continuation planning or guaranteeing retirement income for life.

Other associates meet regularly for a few weeks to a few months and cover different aspects of one broad topic, such as effective ways to work with small-business owners or how to transition to managed money. The group might agree to meet for 90 minutes every Monday afternoon. This type of training is effective because it keeps associates focused on a specific topic consistently for several weeks.

Associates can plan the meetings early in the day or during a lunch break, and it will have a minimal impact on their productivity. Smaller firms host these events in their conference or training rooms. Larger firms with multiple locations often include associates in detached locations via video conferencing.

Some firms use outside resources to help format or design their focus groups. Also, there are virtual training platforms that can provide a template to design the curriculum, along with videos to kick off a particular session or topic.

Focus-Group Tips

Here are some ways to get the most out of your focused training groups.

  1. Get the associates involved. Ask them what topics and speakers they would consider valuable and worthwhile. Maybe your mid-tier associates who specialize in financial management want to learn more about life insurance, for example.
  2. Offer top-notch content. You can have top-performing producers share their own best practices, or you can bring in outside speakers or experts in specific markets or products. Internal trainers or managers might not have as much credibility as external experts, but your in-house team members can moderate the sessions.
  3. Have a defined curriculum and an agenda. That enables the participants to see and commit to the program before the meetings begin.
  4. Have a one-day meeting off-site. Some larger firms combine the training with a fun activity at an off-site venue. Your associates will appreciate the extra touches if you hold the meeting at an upscale club or resort with a huge Wow Factor.
  5. Partner with other firms. If you manage a small firm, you can partner with another firm within your company to share resources and ideas.

Focused training groups get associates at all levels of the career involved in their own training. As a result, they become engaged in the learning, appreciate the attention paid to their unique needs, become more invested in their careers, and are likely to become more loyal to your firm or agency.